The Nevada state Senate approved a bill Wednesday that would strengthen existing protections for out-of-state abortion patients and in-state providers from outside prosecution and penalties as Democratic leadership vows to make the western swing state a safe haven for abortion patients.
A spokesperson for Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo indicated that Lombardo could sign the bill as written.
Lombardo, who describes himself as pro-life and cites his Catholic faith, has said he would respect the will of voters who codified abortion rights up to 24 weeks in a 1990 referendum vote. He was the only Republican to defeat a state Democratic incumbent in the last election.
The Senate voted 15-6 in favor of the bill Wednesday, with Republicans Carrie Buck and Minority Leader Heidi Seevers Gansert joining Democratic support for the bill. In a tweet following the vote, the Nevada Republican Party said it was “horrified” that the two Republicans voted for the measure.
It now heads to the state Assembly, where Democrats hold a supermajority.
The bill would codify an executive order from former Gov. Steve Sisolak last year, barring state agencies from assisting other states in investigations that could lead to the prosecution of abortion patients and medical boards.
The provisions became a major flashpoint in one of the closest governor’s races of the 2022 midterms. Former Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak implemented the provisions as an executive order after the overturning of Roe v. Wade, before vowing on the campaign trail to make it law.
Lombardo originally said he would repeal the executive order before saying he would uphold it months later, a flip that Sisolak’s campaign repeatedly emphasized.
Lombardo’s spokeswoman Elizabeth Ray said in a text message that the governor “has encouraged the Legislature to send a clean bill codifying the previous executive order to his desk, and he looks forward to reviewing the proposed legislation.”
During an interview with Las Vegas-based radio station KNPR in February, Lombardo indicated he would sign the bill into law if it gets to his desk as written.
“This particular item involving abortions, I could support if it stands on its own,” he told the radio station.
As many states restrict abortion access, including neighboring Utah and Idaho, Nevada Democrats have vowed to preserve abortion access.
On Monday, the state Senate voted to move along a resolution that would enshrine the already-existing abortion rights in the state constitution, which would make it much harder to repeal. That would have to pass both the 2023 and 2025 biennial Legislatures before appearing in front of voters on the 2026 ballot.